The title of our message is “Growing Your Own Life (With a Little Bit of Help! )”. We take as the principal text of our message the Parable of the Sower, Mark 4: 2-10 and Jesus’ interpretation of it in Mark 4: 13-20 (Read them): “Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: ‘Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold and some a hundred.’” – – – – “And He said to them, ‘Do you understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and yet they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns, they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit; some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some a hundred.’” [Notice, all four have heard the word – the issue is what did they do with it and about it.]
The Holy Spirit has shown me, in preparation for today’s message, a new insight, at least new for me, into this Parable of the Sower. My old insight has been that all of our seed-sowing has been understood, under this parable, as seed sown into the lives of others, through which we could see fruit born, either as good fruit or bad fruit, or even no fruit, depending on the ground into which those seeds were sown, which means depending on the hearts into which those seeds were sown. We have understood the principle of planting seeds, the seeds being watered, and the seeds being harvested as fruit into the kingdom of God. We have understood that sometimes we plant our seeds by the wayside or on stony ground or among thorns and, thank God, sometimes in good ground.
Today, the Holy Spirit says that we have, through our ability to choose – our freedom of will and choice – all of these kinds of ground in us and available to us, personally, and we have to choose what kind of ground in us we are going to nurture and sow in our own lives.
So, today, the Holy Spirit asks the question, “How are you growing your own life?” The Holy Spirit is asking us not just about the seeds we plant in the lives of other people, but about the seeds we are planting in our own lives. The Holy Spirit is asking us if we are investing the seed of our lives – the minutes of our time in this physical body – in good ground in our own lives or are we investing those minutes, those seeds, in the wayside of our lives, in the stony ground of our lives and in the thorny places of our lives – that is what He is asking each one of us today!
The Holy Spirit is revealing to us the importance of this Parable of the Sower in the lives of others and today, most particularly, in our own lives. The Holy Spirit is asking us if we have to some extent suspended our own growth because we have become so busy in planting seeds elsewhere, that we are not planting seeds in ourselves in this season. The Holy Spirit is asking us if our growth is incomplete, in our lives, because we have not planted enough seeds in good ground in our own lives.
How do we answer this question? I believe the answer for each one of us would be uniform in this respect: We would probably all agree that we need to be growing our own lives better! And I believe that for each one of us, there would be nuances of considerable difference in our individual lives. But the Holy Spirit has suggested to me that there is more common ground in our answers than might at first blush appear.
That common ground we all share can be found in the choices we make in our time priorities, our finances. This came to a peak of reality to me yesterday as I took a few, a very few, minutes, just to sit on the porch while the dogs were let out of the house for a relief break, and realized that I didn’t spend enough time alone to ponder my priorities. Rather, I tend to move from one agenda item to the next, in kind of an unrelenting motion. The Holy Spirit said to me yesterday that I had become focused on something important: that while my thought was about such “time- alone”, that He was not just interested in the matter of that kind of “alone-time”, but He was interested in the matter of how the priorities of time and money, which I set in my life, and to some considerable extent, in the lives of my family, are really seeds I am planting in my own life and am causing to be planted in the lives of my family – and perhaps in the lives of others. That has made me stop and think even more. [It is delightful to have a conversation with the Holy Spirit in which He is not pressed into doing all the listening while I do all the talking!]
At first, as I heard from the Holy Spirit yesterday, I was somewhat defensive and countered with James 2:26, that “. . . faith without works is also dead.” And that, therefore, I “had” to do all the things I do, moving relentlessly through “my” agenda. But the Holy Spirit countered and said, “Yes, but what about the works in the good ground in your own self?” And then the lights came on and I saw that I need to get busier with a review of my own priorities of time and money. And the Holy Spirit made it clear that this is also a message for the body of this church. So, the Holy Spirit is asking you, too, the question of how are you tending the garden of your own life.
In our society, time is money and money is time. Employees clock time and employers keep it. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. In other words if we don’t put in the time, we don’t get paid. So, there is this definitive relationship of time and money. The notion of an hourly wage or an hourly rate or a salary in exchange for a minimum number of hours – all confirm that time is money and money is time.
The Holy Spirit then addresses this issue of time and money by addressing the issue of debt and freedom from debt. And, obviously, these two are inter-related: Without debt, you don’t need as much money, and if you don’t need as much money, then you are free from having to work so much and are therefore freer to prioritize yourself to be more available, on standby even, for fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and to be available at His bidding to be sowing seeds on better ground within yourself and within others!
How you are growing yourself up has everything to do with shedding yourself of worldly holds on your time, money and energy, so that you are freed to be bound as a bondservant of Christ, and not bound as a bondservant of the world and its creditors upon your time and money and energy.
Increasingly, ever since the Holy Spirit began to reveal to me II Corinthians 7: 1, I have come to see this as the pivotal verse in illuminating our Christian walk, as that walk is summarized in Ephesians 4: 13, in our growing ourselves up, by the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the faith and in the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a complete mature person, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
So, once again, we face II Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, (promises from the latter part of II Corinthians 6, that God will be our God and dwell in us and be our Father, as we separate ourselves from the unclean and worldly), let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
This cleansing occurs as we sow seeds in the good ground in us and as we, therefore (because there is only so much time in our lives) avoid sowing the seeds – the minutes – of our lives in the wayside (where Satan comes immediately and takes away that seed – wastes it and converts it to evil), on stony ground (where there is a temporary embellishment of our faith and cleansing which does not endure in us in the face of tribulation or persecution – such as the persecution of temptation), or among thorns, where the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things (time and money again) choke off that seed and keep it from growing. No, not those unworthy places in us that clamor for the investment of our time and money – the seed minutes of our lives – but in the good ground, where we embrace and embody only the things directed by our Lord, and then we have fruit to the extent of 30-, or 60-, or 100-fold! That is where it is! God expects big things from us, a big return, more that 1:1, but as much as 1:100!!! That is where the calling is for us to get free from bondage to this world, so that our time, money and energy is constantly at God’s disposal and we are not holding back because we are otherwise obligated or otherwise desirous in our own hearts!
The Holy Spirit today is encouraging us to start working our way back to where He is calling us, back to Matthew 6: 32-33, “For after all these things the Gentiles (unbelievers) seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things (food, shelter and clothing). But seek first the kingdom of God an His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” The Holy Spirit is calling His church, the Bride of Christ, to get her priorities corrected, in time, money and energy, to be available when he calls on us. Ready to go and do, and at all times ready to be, with Him! So, how are you growing your life? How are you investing, minute by minute, the seeds of your life in yourself. Are you cleansing yourself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit? Are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness in your lives? These are questions for you, for His church, and for me – serious questions. Think on these things and make time to sit down, on the porch or somewhere, and have a follow-up fellowship and conversation with the Holy Spirit. OH, and be sure you are mostly listening! Because you probably need a little help with growing your own life, and the Holy Spirit is your available help – to guide you in the way of all truth and to convict you of sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16: 13, 8).
God bless you+ and Amen.